Packers Position Preview, Defensive Backs: Could Be Team’s Best Secondary in a Decade

Packers Position Preview, Defensive Backs: Could Be Team’s Best Secondary in a Decade

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Packers Position Preview, Defensive Backs: Could Be Team’s Best Secondary in a Decade

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This is the next in a series of position previews as the Green Bay Packers prepare to open training camp to prepare for the 2020 NFL season.

The Green Bay Packers have all four starting DBs returning in 2020 with Jaire Alexander and Kevin King at the corners and Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage back at safety. The starters give the Packers a mix of experience and youth and a lot of talent.

The biggest question is who takes over as the third safety and as the nickel and dime corners. Those positions are still undecided as camp gets under way. Veteran Tramon Williams has not been re-signed although it is still possible the Packers bring him back if they see the need.

The potential exists for this to be the best and deepest secondary the Packers have had in about a decade if the group stays healthy and some of the younger starters and backups continue to make progress.

Here is a look at the Packers secondary depth chart as the team prepares to open training camp:

Cornerbacks: Likely Starters: Jaire Alexander, Kevin King

Alexander has the potential to be a Pro Bowl corner if he takes a third-year jump. He has good speed and excels in zone coverage. Alexander is confident, bold and loves to play the game. He also has a short memory, a great trait for an NFL cornerback.

The biggest obstacle for Alexander to become elite is his inability to make interceptions. In two seasons with the Packers, the former Louisville star has just three interceptions and has dropped several potential picks. The arrow is still pointing up for Alexander and the Packers feel he is just beginning to realize his full potential.

King is coming off his best NFL season in 2019. He led the Packers with a career high five interceptions and one sack. The former University of Washington star has great size for a cornerback at 6’3” and plays a more physical style than Alexander. He can use his hands a bit too much at times, resulting in too many penalties.

One of his biggest issues is staying healthy. Last season, he played in 15 games, by far a career high. King is in his contract year and needs to come through with a strong season to get a lucrative new deal whether it’s in Green Bay or elsewhere.

Cornerbacks: Likely Backups: Chandon Sullivan, Josh Jackson, Ka’Dar Hollman

Sullivan had a great year as the Packers dime back last season and is the favorite to become the nickel back as camp opens. Sullivan allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete just 35.5 percent of their passes when he was in coverage according to pro-football-reference.com. He made one acrobatic interception against Dallas last season and while making 30 total tackles.

Sullivan is a student of the game and does a great job of anticipating passes. If he’s ready to assume nickel duties, the Packers secondary will have excellent depth at corner.

Jackson has been an enigma since the Packers drafted him in the second round in 2018. He started 10 games during an uneven rookie campaign but barely saw the field on defense last season, playing just 10 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

Jackson was a ball hawk with Iowa, but his lack of pure speed has been an issue in the NFL. He is better suited to zone coverage and can be a liability in man. This may be Jackson’s last chance to prove he can carve out a role in Mike Pettine’s defense.

Hollman had a strong preseason last year and excels in bump and run coverage. Hollman dressed for four games last season and mostly appeared on special teams. If he makes a second-year jump, he is a candidate to be the Packers dime back.

Cornerbacks: Fighting for a Roster Spot: DaShaun Amos, Marc-Antoine Duquoy, Kabion Ento, Stanford Samuels, Will Sunderland

Amos spent the last two years in Canada after being cut by the New York Giants in 2017. The former East Carolina star has a nose for the football and would give the Packers some experienced depth at cornerback.

Duquoy is a physical marvel who has excellent speed and size but must make the adjustment from Canadian football to the NFL. He had nine interceptions in college in Canada and returned four of them for touchdowns. His likely role would be on special teams if he were to make the team where his physical abilities would make him an immediate asset.

Ento turned some heads in training camp last year and earned a berth on the practice squad. He played wide receiver in college and was busy making the transition to corner. He has good size and plays the physical style of corner the Packers coaches prefer. The former University of Colorado star has a great work ethic and is out to prove he can make an impact in the NFL at his new position.

The Packers signed Samuels as an undrafted free agent this year out of Florida State. He has good size at 6’1” and the demonstrated a knack for getting his hands on the football with eight picks in three college campaigns. The lack of a preseason this year may hurt his chances to impress the coaching staff.

Sunderland transferred from Oklahoma to Troy State where he exceled the past two seasons. He had a career-high four interceptions in 2019. At 6’2”, he has the height Packers coaches prefer. He will have to prove he can be effective on special teams to have a chance at a roster spot.

Safety: Likely Starters: Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage

Amos gave the Packers exactly what they expected at safety: consistency, experience, leadership and good overall play. The Penn State alum made 84 total tackles last year and two interceptions including the game-clinching pick against the Bears in Week 1 that helped set the tone for the season.

Amos should be more comfortable in Pettine’s defense in his second season with the Pack and that means he should play even better in 2020.

Savage was inconsistent at times as a rookie but overall, had a strong first season

Safety: Likely Backups: Raven Greene, Will Redmond

The Packers really missed Greene after he was injured in Week 2. Nobody else was as effective at the hybrid S/ILB position Pettine loves to utilize on defense. Greene played well when he was in the lineup, but he has only played in 10 total games for the Packers over the last two years.

Redmond has a different skill set than Greene and made 36 total tackles a year ago in 13 games while playing 26 percent of the Packers defensive snaps. He is a good player on special teams which increases his value to the team.  The 26-year-old Mississippi State alum gives the Packers some experienced depth in the secondary and some versatility.

Safety: Fighting for a Roster Spot: Vernon Scott, Frankie Griffin, Henry Black

The Packers selected Scott in the seventh round of this year’s draft. The former TCU star started 10 games in his senior season and had a 98-yard pick six against Oklahoma last year while registering 44 total tackles and breaking up eight passes.

Scott has good size at 6’2” and will be a candidate to be groomed for the hybrid S/ILB position in the future.

Griffin is an undrafted free agent out of Texas State. He showed the ability to do a lot of things well in college which included 67 total tackles as a senior. He can also blitz the quarterback, picking up 7.5 sacks in college including 1.5 in his senior season and six tackles for loss. Griffin will need to show he can pick up the defense quickly and contribute on special teams to have a chance to make the roster.

The Pack added Black as an undrafted free agent out of Baylor this season. He started 14 games as a senior and was in on 62 tackles, made two sacks and forced a pair of fumbles. Black was a leader in college and hopes to establish himself as a useful depth piece in the Packers secondary and on special teams.

Outlook:

The Packers are returning all four starters in the secondary. If Sullivan can step up and be effective at nickel back and Greene can stay healthy, the team should have one of the better secondaries in the NFC this season. King is in a contract year and has extra incentive to do well. Alexander and Savage should continue to develop into two of the better young players at their position and Amos should be more comfortable in his second season in the defense.

There are questions deeper in the depth chart, but many of the lesser-known candidates have intriguing potential which the coaching staff will have to maximize.  Overall, this area should be a strength for the Packers defense in 2020.

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